This is yet another dish that was inspired by a Food52 recipe contest. When I mentioned the site’s recent “best use of a grill, lemon and thyme” contest to my wife, she looked at me flatly and said “there is no more perfect dish on the planet to enter into this contest than Shish Taouk”, and you know what….. she was right. This is a dish that she ate ravenously as a child in Lebanon, and its no surprise why. The freshness of the lemon/thyme marinated chicken, the addictive qualities of the toum (garlic sauce), the salty chew of the grilled halloumi, and the spice and sweetness of the papadews and grilled lemon, make every bite a celebration. We love this served on syrian bread, but it would also be great alongside some rice or couscous.
The shish part of the recipe is ours, and we adapted a recipe for the toum (garlic sauce) after visiting two terrific Lebanese food blogs. The first, being my friend Joumana’s site at “Taste of Beirut“, the second being “The Food Blog“, written by Fouad Kassab. Any of you looking to learn more about Lebanese cuisine should check these sites out, they are really wonderful! As proud as I am of the shish we created here, there is no doubt that the star of this dish is the toum. I guarantee that if you make it, you’ll be rifling through your fridge for days, looking for anything to dredge through your left-over toum. YUM!
For the Shish Taouk:
- 1 cup greek style yoghurt
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon zatar (thyme based middle-eastern spice mix)
- 1/2 cup EVOO
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/8 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
- 1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- 12 Crimini mushrooms
- 12 Papadew peppers
- 12 Cippolini onions, blanched and peeled
- 2 Zucchini, cut into large chunks
- 2 blocks of Halloumi cheese, cut into large chunks
- 2 Lemons for grilling, cut into rounds or wedges
- 4 rounds of fresh syrian bread
- 1 bunch Fresh thyme, finely chopped
Toum (garlic sauce):
- 6 cloves of garlic
- Juice of one lemon
- Large pinch of kosher salt
- 1 large egg white
- 2/3 cups canola oil
- small bowl of ice water
- Up to 1/2 cup of good quality prepared mayonnaise
- The night before you want to cook: mix the first 9 ingredients (the marinade) in a large bowl. Cut the chicken into medium sized chunks, toss in the marinade, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to grill.
- For the Toum (garlic sauce): Put the garlic cloves with the salt and 1/4 of the lemon juice in a blender. Blend on medium speed until the garlic is chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary. With the blender still on medium speed, add the egg white through the feed tube and continue to blend. Add half the oil in a slow thin stream. At this stage, the emulsification should have taken hold, switch to a slow blend, and slowly add the rest of the lemon juice. Add the rest of the oil in the same fashion. Add 1 or 2 tbsp of ice water while still mixing on low. At this point you should have a sauce with the consistency of a light mayonnaise. Taste for salt, and to see how strong the garlic flavor is. If needed, either to thicken the sauce, or to cut the raw garlic punch a bit, whisk in up to 1/2 cup of good quality prepared mayonnaise. Reserve for dressing your grilled shish taouk.
- For the shish taouk (chicken shish kabobs): Pre-heat your grill to medium-high heat.
- Place the onions in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, to parboil the onions. Remove from the heat and rinse with cold water to cool, peel their skins and reserve for grilling.
- Take the chunks of halloumi and zucchini, the onions, mushrooms, peppers, and lemon slices and toss them in a bowl. Drizzle with a little evoo, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat, then place each ingredient on its own metal, or pre-soaked wooden skewer for grilling.
- Take the chicken from the fridge and skewer the chunks as you did the veggies, season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Grill each skewer until it reaches your desired degree of doneness, remove to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm until all the skewers are complete.
- To serve, place a mix of grilled ingredients on a round of warmed syrian bread, top with a generous helping of toum, sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme, and squirt with a grilled lemon wedge. Devour at will.